Photo by Matthew Hembree
By David Provost
The Sewanee Purple recently had the opportunity to sit down with Perpetual Motion and DanceWise performer, choreographer, and leader Fridien Nana Tchoukoua (C’17) to discuss the creation and presentation of his dance “NOIR,” which has won awards by the American College Dance Association. The dance premiered at DanceWise but was performed for a third time in Sewanee on April 19 in Guerry.
The Sewanee Purple: Do you find NOIR to be a piece of the present? In a post-Obama divided America, it seems like your piece is striking a powerful chord with audiences.
Fridien Nana: I found NOIR to be a piece of the past, the present, and the future. Yes, you are right, because much of my inspiration stemmed from the current political climate.
SP: Are you surprised by the amount of overwhelming success from NOIR, or did you have a suspicion that people would connect with it?
FN: I am very surprised! The amount of feedback, compliments, and even questions that I have received are surreal. Because of those, I often doubt that I created this piece… how did such a thing come from my brain? Anyway, I am very grateful for being provided the opportunity to share this experience with an audience.
SP: What were some of the basic concepts you began with to create the beginnings of a powerful piece like NOIR?
FN: Trayvon Martin’s court case in 2013 began the thought-process. Then, the accumulation of black victims and unjustified injustice along the years bothered me in a way that writing a post or talking to someone was not enough. Due to my comfort in my movement, I decided to create a piece that is very black and blacker than you can possibly imagine. But in order to that, I had to start from back in the days, 19th century slavery time.
SP: As a performer and choreographer, what has your experience been like putting the piece on numerous times and at different venues? Is NOIR always the same for you and your team, or did the creative aspect grow with the word-of-mouth about the dance?
FN: It has been a very interesting journey, just like NOIR itself is a journey. Every time we are on a new stage, we remind ourselves to dance as passionately as possible in order to portray the stories of people before us.
SP: Do you have any other plans for something similar to NOIR, maybe making it part of a series? Or do you feel as though it’s a stand-alone piece that is serving its purpose as is?
FN: Good question. I haven’t thought about the future yet, since this work is still very fresh! I wouldn’t mind seeing in on larger stages throughout the country. By doing that, we may get invited by renowned dance companies like Alvin Ailey to set NOIR on their dances. We never know.